A Greater Manchester start-up company has launched the first of a range of products aimed at reducing wastage from vehicle tires, supported by the Graphene Engineering Innovation Center’s (GEIC) ERDF Bridging the Gap program at The University of Manchester.
In conjunction with the GEIC, Dr. Vivek Koncherry developed SpaceMat—a flooring product that uses graphene to improve dramatically the performance of recycled tire rubber compared to previous efforts.
It’s estimated that 1.5 billion waste tires are generated globally every year and most end up in landfill or being burned. Numerous attempts have been made to produce high-quality recycled rubber from tires, but the shedding of microparticles from resultant products has raised concerns over environmental health.
Vivek’s company Space Blue has successfully developed graphene-enhanced recycled rubber products for mass-market applications that address this issue.
The SpaceMat product is constructed from 80% waste tire material and 20% graphene-enhanced natural rubber. The graphene more than doubles the compressive strength of the rubber, in turn increasing the durability of the mat. Using graphene, it is possible to engineer the mechanical performance of the recycled material, bringing it close to the performance of a virgin polymer system.
James Baker, CEO Graphene@Manchester, said: “Our Bridging the Gap program specifically targets Greater Manchester-based SMEs and has been a great opportunity to support local innovation. It’s really exciting to see this new company entering into the market, in particular with its focus on supporting environmental sustainability and a good re-use of scrap tires, which otherwise could cause significant pollution and waste product.”
Avoiding the ‘valley of death’
Innovation in the area of sustainability is one of the criteria governing research activities at GEIC and is also vital in securing funding from the Bridging the Gap program.
Bridging the Gap